October 23, 2014
After spending several years fighting the destruction of a Carrere and Hastings masterpiece, The New York Public Library, I didn’t expect to have another Goliath spring up in 2014. But it happened. It is sad that one of New York’s greatest museums joined MOMA in deciding to supersize itself. Wealthy board members want to build and museum directors are blithely constructing to satisfy their hubris and egotism.
I never thought it would happen at the Frick, my favorite New York museum. It is the perfect place to view paintings in intimate settings. It needs nothing in the way of improvement.
Davis Brody Bond has designed a hulking addition to the museum that Ian Wardropper, its director, says is “just big enough” to accommodate needed auditorium, office and gallery space. What he doesn’t say is that the museum will destroy two wonderful spaces in order to build the addition, and that one of them was designed by England’s Russell Page, one of the 20th century’s greatest landscape architects. Charles Birnbaum has written a beautiful piece in the Huffington Post that argues for the garden’s preservation.
The trend toward building mega-museum additions in New York seemed to be subsiding in the wake of widespread criticism that such expansions were merely trying to out-Guggenheim the Guggenheim. Moreover, the Frick board was circumspect, conservative, and not inclined to follow trends in the culture wars; that is, until recently.
The Frick does not need a large addition. Critics have shown that any additional admin space could be accommodated by purchasing adjacent buildings, as the museum has done in the past, and converting them to offices and program spaces. So, I’ve joined the campaign to fight another ploy by the new oligarchy to control cultural institutions and gobble up real estate in America’s art capital. You should too.
October 6, 2014
On Sunday, September 21, 2014, my family and I joined 311,000 others in New York City for the largest demonstration on the climate crisis in history. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and my children understood that they were witnessing something very important. I noted with some satisfaction that the New York Times and The Nation ran significant articles during the following week about the crisis, but the march did not draw widespread media coverage in the nation as a whole.
That did not surprise the organizers of the march, but it certainly didn’t give progressives and environmentalists much to crow about. On Monday, September 22, John Stewart began “The Daily Show” with a trenchant report contrasting the heady enthusiasm of the marchers with the deafening silence of officials in Washington during the previous week. It seems that the Senate Committee on the Environment grilled the leading climate scientist in the Obama administration for several hours without asking a single pertinent question about climate change or the waning of the fossil fuel supply. The hapless “point man” couldn’t get a single Senator to recognize the urgency of his recommendations or the gravity of the crisis we are facing if greenhouse gas emissions do not drastically decrease during the next 20 years.
The Daily Show made the Senators’ indifference into a biting critique of the government and its “fiddling while Rome burns” attitude. As it often does, the program offered more useful analysis than any legitimate newscast, but the take away was pretty disheartening–very little will come of this massive civil action until the forces that control Washington (Big Oil and Coal) are brought to their knees by a real energy crisis.
Chill winds are blowing in the nation’s capital, while the rest of us burn and sweat in the hothouse that we call home–planet Earth without its SPF50 sunscreen.